Photo: HHM/Dietmar Hasenpusch

Germany’s 9 largest seaports call for new ideas to cut ship emissions

EU’s proposal to expand shore power is not the right strategy to obtain a sustainable reduction in emissions by shipping, German seaports believe.

seaports
Photo: HHM / Dietmar Hasenpusch

The German seaports take the position that a European CO2 emission limit should be introduced for all seagoing and inland waterway vessels at berth.

However, across-the-board implementation of on-grid shoreside power facilities is not necessarily the way to reach that goal, according to the ports.

In May 2021, Germany’s nine largest seaports including JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven, Seehafen Wismar, Rostock Port, Port of Kiel, Niedersachsen Ports, Hamburg Port Authority, bremenports, Lübeck Port Authority, and Brunsbüttel Ports signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a framework for a joint course of action on reducing ships’ emissions in the ports.

Together, they presented a position paper on ‘[email protected]. The paper, signed by the port management companies of the abovementioned ports, states:

“If they operate with 100 percent renewable power, on-grid land-based power supply facilities can be an effective measure to reduce emissions from seagoing and inland waterway vessels docked in port, but not for every port, not for every berth, and not for every ship.”

Providing on-grid shore power facilities for the approx. 550 berths for seagoing vessels at the German ports – or even only a larger percentage of berth – would require investments of billions of euros. These investments would have to be borne by the taxpayer and by the ports without any significant support from the ship operators who are responsible for causing the emissions.

Moreover, only certain ships would be obliged to use the provided shore power facilities. This would lead to a situation where one vessel would be obliged to use shore power when moored at a berth with a shore power connection, whereas another unregulated vessel at the same berth would still be permitted to burn fossil fuels.

In July 2021, the EU Commission published the “Fit for 55” package which is aimed at reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The package stipulates specific requirements for ships at berth.

Zero-emission at berth will be compulsory for certain types of vessels as from 2030, and shore power, batteries and fuel cells are listed as potential solutions.

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While the German seaports endorse this fundamental target, they believe that the solution focus needs to be open to all technologies and thus permit, for instance, the use of fuels from renewable energy sources.

Such fuels can reduce carbon emissions and air pollutants not only at the berth, but also while the vessel is in operation at sea, and would thus achieve reductions on a much bigger scale. Approx. 95 percent of the emissions caused by shipping are generated during the voyage, whereas the time spent in port accounts for only five percent.

In their position paper, nine large German seaports invite the shipping industry to seek joint solutions for emission-free vessels at berth — solutions that provide alternatives to grid-connected shore power systems.

Innovation competition has been launched

The German seaports have initiated an innovation competition to identify and learn more about suitable technologies and approaches. In doing so, they are jointly looking for alternatives to existing grid-connected shore power systems and for energy supply approaches for ships at berth that can also contribute to reducing emissions while ships are at sea.

The three competition categories are:

  • Concepts: still at an R&D stage but demonstrating the potential for innovation.
  • Prototypes: ideas that demonstrate technical feasibility, but still lack the development stages (e.g., economic feasibility studies or further system developments).
  • Existing technology solutions: market-ready solutions that are already being successfully implemented in other ports or on board and are available but might still require some adaptation or scaling-up.

The innovation competition started on February 1, 2022 and will close on June 18, 2022. Entries will be judged by a jury of representatives from shipping companies, maritime associations, and from science. Representatives from the ports will also be involved in the decision making.